Gladys and Patrick Lydon of 'Living and Growing' in Callan
When many businesses have had to close their doors because of the coronavirus lockdown, one small business that was primed to launch in the spring is forging ahead, despite the new circumstances.
Patrick and Gladys Leydon have set up a gardening enterprise, aiming to fill the world with joyful flowers, that they call ‘Living and Growing.’ Giving hope to other small businesses, they have managed to find a market and sell their products.
They were just about to start trading when the coronavirus hit, and changed everything.
“We were expecting to work in a market, on a Thursday in Kilkenny,” Patrick told the Kilkenny People. “We had a business model we were going to follow - then bingo! coronavirus.”
For the Callan-based company it was time for a new, and urgent, plan. They decided to go online.
“We are experienced gardeners but we had no experience of marketing, that was a challenge,” Patrick said, describing their new challenge. “Covid-19 means the general gardening market is strong, but how do you enter that market?”
Faced with not having a weekly stall, they made contact with two important helpers - the Local Enterprise Office and the brand new NeighbourFoods movement.
The Local Enterprise Office has a scheme to encourage businesses to go online, and can offer grants to build a website. Patrick and Gladys are currently waiting for funds to be approved before they can avail of this and launch their own website.
However, in the meantime a wonderful community resource has proved fruitful. The NeighbourFood market has only been in Callan a few months, but it’s turned out “really great” for Living and Growing. They are one of 27 producers from the locality, including farms, food producers and specialist suppliers, stocked at the weekly market.
Owing to lockdown it works a bit differently to the usual market. You can browse what’s available online, put in your order, then on a Friday evening the collection point, at Fennelly’s of Callan, opens up for you to collect your box.
While their own website is delayed, waiting for funding, the sophisticated, online marketing of NeighbourFood is working really well for Living and Growing.
Patrick and Gladys have listed have listed a selection of potted herbs, vegetable plants and flower plants for sale there.
For now, the marketing of Living and Growing is limited to a small geographical area, but with the impending lifting of the 5km travel rule Patrick hopes people will travel to collect plants, at their social distancing friendly collection point.
Selling their plants online has turned out to suit Living and Growing, Patrick says. They have “a small quantity of a lot of different things.”
“We can put them up and let people choose and pick.”
When they get their website up and running, Patrick says the small, local company will be able to post nationally.
They might not planned to launch a new business when a lot of the world’s business community has had to shut up shop, but the lockdown may prove to be a silver lining for this business.
Many people have spent their time in lockdown discovering, and improving, their garden. Patrick says nobody knows how long this flurry of gardening will continue, but he thinks the popularity of gardening that came with the lockdown will last a long time.
In launching the new business, Patrick and Gladys decided not to go in to direct competition with local suppliers of usual bedding plants and they have grown plants that they say “are new and different; adventurous, surprising, and delightfully beautiful!”